Thank You Ash Cloud!
My 2010 season was scheduled to start at the end of May with the MR2 Racing Series round at Snetterton and before the event, a host of work is planned for the car, including replacing the ageing and smoky 120k mile engine with a completely freshly rebuilt one, a respray and full stickering job and some set-up work done to the suspension, including lowering the back end which seems to stand an inch or two higher than most on the grid, and to get all the wheels pointing and leaning in roughly the tight direction.
The reason for missing the first round of the series at Mallory on 18 April was a business trip to Italy but due to an untimely ash cloud issuing from Iceland, the trip was thwarted at the last minute.
As the available spaces on the grid and also on a second grid, scheduled to run at the back of the Nippon race were all taken, it was unlikely that I’d be able to fill the weekend racing but a phone call to series co-ordinator, Steve Vince was slightly encouraging at the expense of a fellow competitor who had found himself at the other end of the flight cancellations with no return flight from the Caribbean.
So, I’d manage to secure myself a place on a grid at Mallory but unfortunately, I was destined to be in the B Race. As Mallory only has a licence for 30 cars at a time to race and there were 42 entries, the field was split. The first 36 entries received were allowed to qualify for the 30 places on the grid. The last six entries and the slowest six from the qualifying session were destined to compete in the B Race.
We were to qualify with the Nippons and then be joined on the grid by the slower of the MR2s. Qualifying was a bit of a farce really. The power differential between the faster Nippons and the slower ones, and ultimately the MR2s is vast and as we exited the pit on what should basically be a green flag warm up lap, some of the Nippons were away like diarrhoea with pumps on and we were four abreast down the back straight and being outbraked into the Esses. I backed off and had a couple of steady laps until I found a gap with no cars in front or behind and I was able to stick a couple of good laps in. (This doesn’t sound like rocket science to me but there weren’t many out there seemed to grasp that we weren’t racing yet)
The first main MR2 race was absolutely excellent as a spectator. We had a vested interest in the race as team mates Matt Coggins and John Winter had qualified on 8th and 6th on the grid, vast improvements on last season possibly as a result of the work that had gone into the cars. A first corner incident lost Coggs a handful of places and Jon was able to make up a couple of spots. Coggs was able to climb from 14th to 10th during the race and as Jon lost power during the race he dropped from 4th to 8th.
Race B was not quite as incident packed and in true Nippon style, the fastest of the turbo cars sped off into the distance followed by a line of chasers, the gap between each slowly increasing as the procession continued. These were followed by a gaggle of MR2s who’d started a few rows behind on the grid and were still all on top of each other and I’d managed to maintain the advantage of sticking the car on pole despite a couple of cars looking like squeezing up the inside around Gerrard’s. I settled down to a reasonable pace and opened up a sizeable gap between the rest of the MR2s and myself and apart from having to keep out of the way of the faster cars as they lapped me, that was pretty much how it stayed until the finish. My maiden victory, albeit in a B race.
Race 2 was a completely different story. Dave Morgan in car 70 had taken a flier of a start and had out dragged me into Gerrards and then held me on the outside all the way round it losing me some speed for the back straight and I was forced to nip in behind him for the Esses. Some strong defending had him in front round the hairpin and it was after that that my lack of power showed as I was a good 30 yards or so behind as we hit Gerrards once more. Unfortunately, about 50 yards into Gerrards, I discovered that my strong point was my cornering speed and the differential was such that avoiding action was necessary and then all the momentum was lost for the following straight and into the Esses where once again I closed the gap but had the door slammed in front of me on the approach to the hairpin. With 15 laps left, there was no rush to get past so I planned to stay behind Dave and time it so that I exited Gerrards with a load of speed and pass him on the main straight. All was going to plan until we started to get lapped by the Scoobies and they had absolutely no respect for the fact that we were racing ourselves and pushed us wide on corners, backed off half way round Gerrards and were generally ill mannered. All this avoiding had allowed Geraint to close up and he easily overtook me on the back straight and then out-braked Dave into the Esses. Gerraint looked to be going well so I nipped past Dave in the second part of the Esses and made chase. Once more, I’d got the legs around the corners but was struggling to keep up on the straights and getting close to Geraint was proving difficult as the Nippons were rudely squeezing in between us. On lap eleven, tow Nippons squeezed between us and the gap was looking unassailable but the second of the cars hassled Geraint that much that he put a wheel on the grass and had the car rotating down the length of the braking zone into the hairpin. I was back in the lead, upped my pace by a second a lap and set about opening up a safe cushion which I kept to the flag. Another victory in race 2